Despite meticulous research done by students before enrolling in a college or university, many drop out before their graduation, mostly in their first year.
There is, of course, no single reason why students leave an institution. Reasons can include lack of required academic skills, lack of engagement with the school, financial concerns, and many others.
We do know, however, that maximizing student retention depends on strong engagement and effective communications. Students that have social contacts, support systems, and a feeling of connectedness with your school are more likely to graduate successfully. Importantly, students need resources that are available to them to help resolve problems or issues early, before they become critical.
Here are 5 methods to improve your retention rates.
- Support students from admission to graduation
Historically, students are most likely to drop out of college in their first year. It is generally understood that the first-year experience is critical to overall student success. Almost all schools have some sort of Orientation process, with a strong focus on making a student’s transition into the campus environment as positive of an experience as possible.Hopefully by the end of their first year, most of your students will have developed social connections, acclimated to the academic rigor of the school, and will generally understand how to navigate the campus experience. It remains incumbent upon schools, however, to continue to provide effective support resources to students in their later years as well. It is then that issues such as tackling higher-level classes, choosing a major, and preparing for a career after graduation can sometimes feel like overwhelming challenges. Your school’s ability to help students identify and resolve these challenges is an important aspect of maximizing student success.
- Get creative in addressing the diverse support needs of students
Your students might need help and support on diverse issues such as academics, financial support, career guidance, and personal/emotional challenges. Ideally, your school will have a variety of resources to address the different kinds of student issues and needs that arise. In some cases, support groups among students can be a great way for students to resolve their problems while also learning to skills that will help them address issues that arise in the future.
- Consider online options to build communities and engagement
Building strong social and academic relationships with peers can often make the difference in a student’s success at your school. One option for facilitating peer connections among students is the use of online communities. Social media sites are already used extensively by most students, and they can be leveraged to facilitate student interaction and communications. Student mobile apps have also emerged as a technology that can provide a great way for students to connect. School mobile apps have the additional benefit of being more contained than social media sites, since only those who have access to the school’s app can participate in app-based groups. While most groups might be based on clubs, activities or teams, students can also form groups related to majors or even individual courses – effectively creating online study groups and peer support resources.
- Early identification of at-risk students
It is critical to identify students who are struggling while there is still time to intervene and get them back on track. Many schools have found that identifying and monitoring consistent data sources for areas such as attendance, mid-semester academic performance, and utilization of the school’s LMS can help identify students who are at risk. Faculty members who interact with students on a daily basis can also provide important insights into early signs of trouble. By developing a systematic approach to early identification of at-risk students, schools can make substantial improvements in the academic success of their students.
- Leverage technology to improve student experience
The good news for schools today is that there are a growing number of technology resources available to help address student success and retention, and they are becoming more and more affordable. Approaches such as Success CRM’s, automated early alert systems, student mobile apps, and predictive modeling have proven effective within Higher Ed. A measured approach to utilizing technology can pay big dividends!